Food for Thought Blog

Housing Costs Continue to be a Barrier for Putting Food on the Table

November 12th, 2019Media Releases

Waterloo Region, ON – November 12 – The rapidly rising cost of living and gaps in our current social safety net continue to be barriers for many when it comes to putting food on the table, according to the Food Banks Canada (FBC) 2019 HungerCount Report.

The annual report, which is set to be released today, takes a detailed look at food bank usage across Canada and outlines trends, challenges and solutions to addressing the root cause of hunger.

There are a number of factors that may contribute to why millions of Canadians – despite a good economy – are visiting food banks each month, such as: a working income that doesn’t meet basic needs, unemployment, lack of supportive social services, and the rising costs of living in urban, rural and small towns.

Waterloo Region is home to some of the fastest growing and most expensive housing costs in the country. As a community where 79% of people accessing food assistance live in rentals, those steadily increasing costs have a direct impact on the ability to afford food.

“It is becoming more difficult for individuals and families in our community to access healthy, affordable, nutritious food,” said Wendi Campbell, Chief Executive Officer, The Food Bank of Waterloo Region. “Increased competition for affordable accommodations and the steadily climbing housing and food costs are forcing families to make difficult decisions when it comes to putting food on the table.”

Campbell explains that an increase in cost of living for an individual or family on a fixed income can put an additional strain on household budgets, forcing them to choose between paying rent and putting food on the table.

“Whether you are a single person, a parent raising children, or a senior, everyone is feeling the housing crunch, and that has as direct impact not only on access to food but on the types of food available to people,” said Cameron Dearlove, Executive Director, Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank. “Rental costs in Waterloo Region continue to grow faster than incomes, which has a direct impact on dinner tables across our community.”

Food insecurity is an issue of households not having enough income to purchase food, making shopping for a healthy and balanced diet out of reach for many in our community. The Region of Waterloo recently released the 2019 Nutritious Food Basket, a tool used to estimate the basic cost of healthy eating for individuals and households. The tool identified the cost of eating healthy for a family of four in Waterloo Region at $875.92 per month, a 4.9% increase since 2017, or approximately $40.49 more each month.

For a single person living on Ontario Works (OW) with a fixed monthly income of $825, and rent and food exceeding $1,000, they have nothing remaining to cover additional expenses and start the coming month almost $300 in debt.

Since 2012, the average rent in Ontario has ballooned by more than 20%, well above the provincial guidelines. In Waterloo Region, the increases were between 25%-26%.

The 2019 HungerCount Report highlights that while the percentage of children – under the age of 18 – accessing food banks nationally is declining, they still represent 34.1% of the food bank population. Some additional key findings in the national report include:

  • Single person households without children represent 48% of all food bank visitors.
  • Those who receive provincial disability support or pension as a main source of income, represent 26% of food bank visitors.
  • While seniors (those aged 65+) don’t represent a large proportion of food bank visitors, they are outpacing other age groups.
  • Increased cost of living, food, lack of social safety nets and low income are all major drivers for food insecurity.

While the number of children accessing food banks may be declining nationally, the number remains consistent at 35% in Waterloo Region. The most significant increase has been in single person households which have nearly doubled since 2014, from 25% to 49%.

Last year in Waterloo Region:

  • Food insecurity affected nearly 10% (19,465) of households.
  • 14,469 of those households accessed food assistance.
  • 28% (3,659) of households accessed food assistance for the very first time in 2018.
  • 34,552 people accessed food assistance.
  • 49% of individuals receiving food assistance are single, followed by single parent families (19%), two parent families (18%), couples with no children (7%) and other (7%).

“Food is a basic human right and no family should have to choose between food and basic necessities,” said Campbell. “The cost of poverty in our province has been conservatively estimated at $27.1 – $33 billion per year. In order to reduce hunger and poverty in our community and country, there needs to be a continued investment in the Child Tax Benefit, development of pilot projects to help move towards a Basic Income for all Canadians, continued investment in the Canada Housing Benefit, and new strategies and investments in early learning and childcare. These changes will provide people with a solid foundation and supports to help end the cycle of poverty.”

“Thirty years ago, the House of Commons voted unanimously to end child poverty in Canada, but this year in Waterloo Region 35% of food assistance users were children,” said Dearlove. “On the other end of the age spectrum, we are seeing more seniors accessing food assistance programs across the community. We will continue our work to ensure everyone receives nutritious and timely food, but without a broad effort to address the root causes of poverty and food insecurity, we will struggle to reduce the need.”

Each year, members of the Community Food Assistance Network – led by The Food Bank of Waterloo Region and Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank – participate in a national survey providing important data that is used to better understand food insecurity in our country, province and communities.


About The Food Bank of Waterloo Region

Founded in 1984, The Food Bank of Waterloo Region was the first organization of its kind in Ontario, dedicated to providing emergency food. Thirty-five years after incorporation, The Food Bank continues to evolve to meet the needs of the community, ensuring no one goes hungry. As a leader of the Community Food Assistance Network, The Food Bank distributes more than 4.5 million pounds of fresh, frozen and non-perishable food to 100+ community programs and agency partners throughout Waterloo Region. The Food Bank is a registered charitable organization. Learn more at:

About the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank

The Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank (CSHFB) is an independent, non-profit, charitable organization that offers food and support to people and community groups in need within Cambridge and North Dumfries Township. The CSHFB currently provides food to over 1,600 families each month as well as 26 community organizations. For further information, please visit:

About the Community Food Assistance Network

The Community Food Assistance Network is a system of 100+ community programs and agency partners, providing food and connection to other vital supports needed by children, seniors, families and individuals in Waterloo Region. The Food Bank of Waterloo Region and the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank are at the centre of the network, actively sourcing fresh, frozen and non-perishable food for distribution. Learn more at:


Jennifer Judges
Communication Specialist
The Food Bank of Waterloo Region
o: 519.743.5576 x236